China launched an automated cargo rocket hauling supplies for the country's new space station late Saturday from the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea.
A Long March-7 Y3 rocket carrying the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft blasted off at 8:55 pm local time from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, state-run media Global Times reported.
China launched the cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-2 on Saturday, which is scheduled to dock with the space station core module Tianhe to deliver supplies, equipment and propellant. #GLOBALink pic.twitter.com/GElRRa7NZd— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) May 29, 2021
The Tianzhou spacecraft is tasked with refueling the Tianhe space station core cabin for maintenance in orbit and also provides living necessities for future crewed missions at the space station.
The Chinese space agency expects 11 launches through the end of this year to deliver two more modules for the Tiangong Space Station, additional supplies, and a three-member crew. Today's launch marks the second within a month.
Apart from launch and eventual docking at the new space station, the rocket itself is set to fall back to Earth in an uncontrolled manner. Well, that's at least what happened earlier this month after the launch. There was no statement from Beijing about reentry plans for the rocket.
Beijing isn't part of the International Space Station (ISS), primarily due to the U.S. The ISS has been in low Earth orbit for a little more than 22 years and could reach its lifespan by the end of this decade. Russia has already announced it would be withdrawing from the ISS to build its own.